Saturday, June 11, 2011

Family and Race: If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

If a Tree Falls at Lunch PeriodGennifer Choldenko's thin If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period lightly skims over a volcano. It's not that the book is frothy; the characters are as angsty and fraught as expected in a junior high school book.  The stakes are quite high -- a school bully has poached Kirsten's best friend, and Kirsten's mother urges her to quickly conform and get in the popular crowd before her social loser status is set in stone.  Walker has received a scholarship to their posh school, and it's a bit hard for him to fit in socially.

And Kirsten's parents may be getting a divorce.  And Walker's mom may have lied to him about their family.  And his cousin has become money-obsessed -- maybe over drugs?  Oh yeah, and Walker is black. He's about the only African-American at the school, which preaches multiculturalism but can't seem to attract the embassy crowd.  There's enough here for a whole set of problem novels, but since we only get one it has more the feel of a short story, with a situation presented and a question answered, but no time for true depth.

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